The Flinchum File

Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions
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Economic Diversity

As a longtime member of the National Association of Business Economics (NABE), I look forward to their quarterly surveys. It is important to know when my thoughts are in the economic mainstream . . . or not.

Their just-released survey is interesting. I have never seen less agreement at NABE. Take your choice: continuing economic expansion, severe recession, or a modest recession or “soft-landing” — something for everybody!

I suspect this reflects the widely diverging economic data. In a huge economy like ours, there will always be cross-currents, but the number and strength of cross-currents has increased significantly. Take the new Durable Goods report for example. The headline report was dramatically worse than expected. Stripped of one misleading data point, the core Durable Good was dramatically better than expected. Of course, there is often a difference between the headline report and the core report, but those differences have been increasing steadily.

Except for the common cold, it seems every problem over the last three years has been blamed on the pandemic or the supply chain problems. However, it is clear that the quality of economic data has declined, while the quantity of such data has increased. An important data point is that core inflation over the last three months has dropped to only 1.5%, which is bullish. Now, try to find that! An important data point drowns in a sea of unimportant data points. A critical eye on economic data is increasingly mandatory on economic data.